Ruth Runberg searches near and far to find exquisite objects for her clients’ homes.
by Whitley Adkins Hamlin
Former fashion buyer Ruth Runberg has made a business out of helping others source unique furniture, gifts and accents for the home. Through R. Runberg Curiosities, Runberg helps guide her customers “toward creating a home that expresses their authentic self” while supporting artisans across the globe. Runberg’s interest in the business of fashion and design started when she was an undergrad at Washington and Lee University, where she studied economics with a concentration in art history. Her career spans from her work as a buyer for Barneys and Saks in New York City to women’s buying director at Browns in London, and later as a buyer at Capitol boutique here in Charlotte for four years.
Comments were edited for brevity.
I love the “curiosities” part of your business name. Can you tell us a little more about how you came up with the name?
I am drawn to things that have a story — I wonder what a beautiful, old piece of furniture from across an ocean has witnessed over the centuries. I love the soul of things which took time to make and were created by human hands. After all, the most interesting homes are filled with very personal layers accumulated over a lifetime. Curiosities just seemed like a charmingly old-fashioned descriptor for a business about discovery and wonder and beauty.
How did you start working in fashion?
I learned finance skills and hard work right out of school at an investment bank in New York. After two years there, I got my foot in the door at Barneys New York in the buying office. I started as admin to the head of womens buying — changing toner cartridges, answering phones and learning everything I could. I took introductory French at night school so that I’d pronounce all the French fashion words properly. I was the last person to leave the buying office each day. And during my two weeks of annual vacation, I persuaded Barneys to hire me to work shifts at their legendary warehouse sales. I absorbed any and every experience I could.
What inspires your own personal style?
Fashion, interiors, entertaining and travel are all just expressions of who you are and what’s important or interesting to you. I don’t believe in good taste and bad taste, but I wholeheartedly believe in finding and expressing your taste. My own personal style is not too much of any one thing because my interests are all over the place … There’s too much to learn and see and experience for just one lifetime.
What type of merchandise do you sell?
I sell block-printed cotton table linens from Jaipur and swirling mouth-blown tumblers from the best glass blower in Murano. There are Yoruba chairs, imported from Nigeria and covered in thousands of tiny glass seed beads, and scented candles from the oldest existing candlemaker in the world, begun in Paris in the 1600s to create for Louis XIV. … There are the most beautiful wooden jigsaw puzzles made by a small company in England. And I can’t forget to mention the wax candle busts of Queen Charlotte we had commissioned, which are hand poured by a small company in a rainbow of colors.
What is the best way for someone to shop R. Runberg Curiosities?
For the time being, we will continue to take time to accumulate just the right selection and then stage a pop-up selling event. By the end of the year, we will have completed construction on a permanent space, and our curiosities will be available to view by appointment. So many good things are in the works! SP